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Silver in the Bible

For millennia gold and silver were the most common form of money, all the way back to Biblical times. In fact, the Bible is rich in the usage and meaning of silver.

  • The price of a soul was valued in silver. (“then your valuation of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old shall be fifty shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary” Leviticus 27:3; “…and sold him [Joseph] to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver” Genesis 37:28.) The shekel in Joseph's time was 0.403 oz or 8.06 oz for the 20 coins.
  • Land was valued in silver. (“My lord, listen to me; a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver” Genesis 23:15.)
  • Vineyards were priced in silver. (“a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver” Isaiah 7:23.)
  • Fines were paid in silver. (“and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver, and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought an evil name upon a virgin of Israel” Deuteronomy 22:19.)
  • Commerce between nations was transacted in silver. (“A chariot could be imported from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty; and so through the king's traders they were exported…” 1 Kings 10:29.)
  • Taxes (or tribute) were paid in silver. (“Then the king of Egypt deposed him in Jerusalem and laid upon the land a tribute of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold” 2 Chronicles 36:3.)
  • Wages were paid in silver. (“He hired also a hundred thousand mighty men of valor from Israel for a hundred talents of silver” 2 Chronicles 25:6.)
  • Vessels made of silver were used by nobility. (“Why have you stolen my [Joseph’s] silver cup” Genesis 44:4.)
  • God’s promises viewed as refined silver. (“The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” Psalms 12:6.)
  • Saints are tested as silver is tried. (“For thou, O God, hast tested us; thou hast tried us as silver is tried” Psalms 66:10.)
  • Wisdom is to be sought like silver. (“If you seek it [wisdom] like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” Proverbs 2:4-5.)
  • Iron was a cheap imitation of silver. (“Instead of bronze I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver” Isaiah 60:17.) This has meaning when interpreting the statute of Daniel 2, where gold and silver are followed by bronze and iron.
  • Idols were often made of silver. (“And now they sin more and more, and make for themselves molten images, idols skilfully made of their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen” Hosea 13:2.)
  • The price of the Messiah was counted in silver. (“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Cast it into the treasury’—the lordly price at which I was paid off by them. So I took the thirty shekels of silver and cast them into the treasury in the house of the Lord” Zechariah 11:13; “’What will you give me if I deliver him to you?’ And they paid him thirty pieces of silver” Matthew 26:15.)

Even when paper money was introduced centuries ago, it was typically backed by gold and silver. Only in recent times has that backing disappeared, until now where “no country anywhere in the world today has an enforceable gold standard or silver standard currency system” (Reference). Switzerland was the last country to give up the backing of its currency with gold and silver in 2006. What this means, of course, is that all the nations of the world have the power to inflate their currencies, which they have and are currently doing at an alarming rate. The only certainty of maintaining the value of one’s wealth held in terms of “money” is to go back to the proven (dare I say “Biblical”) way of holding it and that is via gold and silver.